Lifestyle

New Year, New Me. Or something like that

This time last year (well maybe a little earlier, since we are now a week into January WHAT), I was making a bunch of resolutions for ways in which I thought my life and I needed to change. This time last year I was gripped in the heart of the storm; my depression and binge eating were holding on tight and I was forever making lists and notes about how I would start over. Ive kept all my notebooks and diaries from that time and its pretty gut-wrenching to remember how much I wished things were different and how much I thought that I simply wasnt trying hard enough. But what those diaries also show me is that drawing up a tonne of rules is not helpful in the slightest.

I really couldnt pinpoint what exactly made me let go of my depression and eating disorder it was a whole host of things and I dont think it could have happened any sooner. But one thing which stands out in hindsight is how things started to change once I stopped caring. I stopped writing rules and lists and pinning them on my bedroom wall, I stopped writing down everything I had eaten, I stopped caring about how much my body had changed. I simply began to accept things the way they were and everything slowly began to fall back into place without me really thinking about it.

In other words, the rules which I tried to govern my life with the structure I thought I needed was actually entirely detrimental to my mental health. So for that reason Im not setting any resolutions this year! I can certainly see why many people take the opportunity at the start of the year to turn over a new leaf and set goals to motivate themselves, but now that I am finally feeling pretty good in myself, Im content to carry on with the way things are. As soon as I tell myself that I need to accomplish something, my subconscious wont let it go until its done. This has got me pretty far in an academic and professional sense, but when those goals are to feel happier overnight or drop a dress size in two weeks, Im really just setting myself up to fail and the vicious cycle starts over again.

So right now, Im not making a big deal over the fact that its a new year. 2016 is already going to be a big year (hello graduation and grown-up job), so all I want to do right now is carry on feeling positive and content with myself. Who needs New Years Resolutions!

Lifestyle

Taking a Break

This Christmas has been one of my busiest yet! I expected this, as working in retail you cant avoid the long busy hours I ended up in work every day last week apart from Christmas Day itself! And by the time that rolled around I was ready to sleep for a solid 12 hours. So in many ways it hasnt really felt like Christmas to me, as I simply havent had a break, but that doesnt mean it was unenjoyable. Im in a pretty good place right now 2015 has had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but currently my state of mind has never been better, and Im feeling pretty positive. 2016 is full of prospects starting with the amazing opportunity I have in January to do work experience at Penguin Books!

This is a dream for me; one of the things Ive learnt this year is how ambitious I can be, and Ive realised that publishing might well be my perfect career. I wont get very far without work experience however, which is why this placement is so super important  I need to make the most of every second!

Which brings me to my main point I will be taking a bit of a break from blogging over the next month. Between a full time work experience placement in London, a retail job at weekends and uni work on the side, life is about the get pretty chaotic, and something has to give! It really is only temporary however, I still hope to squeeze in a few lifestyle updates here and there, and in February Im attending the Blognix Retreat which I cant wait for and will hopefully get me super inspired and creative!

So hold tight, Ill be back!

Lifestyle

The Christmas Tag!

Ive been struggling a bit to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe its because Im getting older, maybe its working in retail and becoming immune to the Christmas products which have been around since September, or maybe its simply the fact that its just not cold enough to be winter! Either way November seems to have slipped into December without anyone noticing and all of a sudden its Christmas next week. What! So I thought Id do a little Christmas Tag post to amp up the Christmas vibes and start feeling festive!

Presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?

Definitely Christmas morning! This is what my family has done all my life so there wont be any changing now! Hands down, the excitement of laying out a mince pie and carrot for Santa and Rudolf, struggling to get to sleep whilst you try to hear them on the roof, and then racing down in the morning to discover the loot is what always made Christmas so magical.

Favourite Festive Food? 

Im a sweet rather then savoury person so my favourite festive food(s) would have to be the mince pies, stollen and the chocolate selection boxes, rather than the turkey dinner. I wouldnt go without any of it though!

Favourite Christmas Scent?

Probably spices like cinnamon. But I also love the smell of pine needles; we always have a real Christmas tree so this really is a scent which means tis the season.

Christmas Eve Traditions?

I dont really have any hard-fast Christmas Eve traditions as what I do has changed a lot over the years depending on my age. When I was younger Christmas Eve always meant a party at my neighbours and a Christmas film on TV, but now Im more likely to be having a drink with friends! And last-minute wrapping of course.

What is on the top of your tree?

*Shock* we havent actually put our tree up yet, but I imagine when we do it will be topped by an odd amalgamation of lights, tinsel and glittery wire which my mum has formed into a star. This is what we always do and I wouldnt have it any other way!

As a kid, what extravagant thing did you ask for, but never receive? 

Tricky one. I was probably too much of a sensible child to ask for things I knew I wouldnt get. I remember always wanting a trampoline however, which I never got!

What do you wear on Christmas Day? 

Christmas Day always calls for a nice outfit even though I never leave the house and just sit around eating! So it needs to be comfy too. This year Ill probably end up in a snuggly jumper of some kind, as my cupboard is over-flowing with them!

Have you finished Christmas shopping yet?

I have! Just about. Ive been doing it very slowly bit by bit, so it hasnt seemed too painful this year at all, and I think Im pretty much done!

Which TV Christmas special are you looking forward to most this year?

Downton Abbey. Im not sure what else is actually going to be on this year, but since its the last ever Downton, it will surely be a good one!

Is Christmas a small group or everyone you can squeeze around the table?

A small group it tends to only be us 5 on Christmas Day. As we are all so busy the rest of the year, its nice to be able to take the day to not even leave the house. Family visiting is saved for the days after Christmas!

Food

Christmas Baking

Today has turned out to be a bake day. This is not how I planned to spend my day. I was all set to head into central London, finish off my Christmas shopping and hit up the Queens Gallery for their Masters of the Everyday exhibition. But while spending the day bouncing around London is normally how I love spending my time, today I just couldnt face it! Even mid-week the shopping crowds are bound to be chaotic, the trains packed and the galleries too busy to be enjoyable. So with of my very busy January looming, I decided I should make the most of these last quiet days of the year; London and its exhibitions can wait for now.

So I baked instead!

I always like to make a batch of beautifully decorated biscuits to stash around Christmas as they make great gifts. This was the first time I had tried this recipe, one of Nigellas for Christmas chocolate shortbread cookies, and I couldnt be happier with the way they turned out! With 5 minutes to combine the ingredients together in a food processor, 5 minutes to roll out the balls, and 15 minutes in the oven, they are some of the speediest treats you can make. Once cool, I drizzled the surface of each cookie with runny chocolate icing and coated in edible stars and glitter. Truly festive!

And of course it wouldnt be a Christmas baking day without those mince pies! These are certainly not the prettiest or the most accomplished mince pies I have ever produced, but rest assured they still tasted delicious! I didnt particularly follow any recipe when making these, so I wasnt exactly sure they would work. The pastry was a little dry and crumbly, but I was pleased with the way my glittery, cinammon-y, crumble-style topping came out.

One of the best ways to spend a day off and relax! What are your favourites for a Christmas baking day?

Lifestyle

Feeling Unmotivated

And when youre in a Slump, youre not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. Dr. Seuss.

This is not what I had planned for todays blog post. In fact, I havent really been sticking to my intended blog schedule much at all recently; for some reason I have become slightly unmotivated with it all. Maybe its because Im pretty busy, so fitting in time for writing and picture taking is difficult around working and studying, maybe its because I havent been doing very much that inspires me. Either way Im just feeling a bit stumped and uncreative!

I definitely dont want to abandon my little blog, its become so much better than I ever thought it would. Writing and focusing on something creative helped me more than I could imagine it would when I needed to fight my mental demons and snap out of my negativity. Ive met new people, been to new places, learnt a ton of new skills, and perhaps most importantly Ive secured work experience for January in my dream job! So without a doubt this blog has been so good for me. Ill definitely keep it up for as long as I can try; even when Im a little quiet Ill always still be here!

Even just writing these few words, just dislodging the thoughts from my brain, makes me feel better. Tomorrow I plan on making a little trip into London town, to breathe the Christmas air and visit some of the galleries I havent been to in a while. That normally gets the creative juices flowing! But really, I suppose we all ought to cut ourselves some slack around this time of year. Were in the depths of winter, its cold(ish), dark and grey, and if we cant spend these days huddled in a duvet getting around to things slowly, then when can we?!

For now, Im off to eat a mince pie and read the book Ive been carting around unopened for weeks. Until next time!

Lifestyle

My Favourite Blogs

I can lose hours reading blogs. I read them more now than I read magazines (and I subscribe to a lot of magazines), and they are only going to grow bigger and better in importance and influence. If you are looking for a new blog to devour, here are some of my top favourites:

The Londoner 

Best for: Travel and serious lifestyle envy

Cider With Rosie

Best for: Down-to-earth relatable lifestyle posts and recipes

Career Girl Daily

Best for: Career tips and ideas, and effective motivation

Hannah Gale

Best for: Very funny writing and feel-good posts

A Girl On A Journey

Best for: Chilled out lifestyle and feel-good journal style posts

Sprouted Kitchen 

Best for: Healthy recipes, and beautiful photography

Im always looking out for new blogs which keep me coming back for more, so please feel free to share your own blogs or your favourites below!

Lifestyle

10 Ways Im Starting to Feel Like an Actual Grown-Up

I absolutely have my fair share of days where I want to stay in bed, watch TV repeats and wallow in self-pity because I dont know what Im doing with my life. But Ive also started having more and more of those days where I feel like I might not actually be so bad at it all. Yknow, those moments where something small will make you realise how far youve come and how you might actually be alright at the whole being-a-grown-up thing. For example

I enjoy getting up early and getting on with a productive day. No more uni days where you never see the hours before lunchtime and rarely change out of pyjamas.

I do washing. And cleaning, and cooking, and food shopping, and hoovering. Because I actually want to take care of my possessions and myself.

I have mastered the Tube.

Sometimes I get more excited about shopping for home items than I do for clothes or make-up or whatever. My dream right now is to have a house of my own to decorate and furnish and generally make beautiful.

I have a credit card, which I actually use and pay so it helps boost my credit rating.

I own a lot of creams. Hand cream, hair cream, even day face cream.

I always take my make-up off at the end of the day. And I floss, and drink lots of water, and know which foods make me feel baaad.

All my friends have actual proper jobs. Like no more part time stuff that you dont care about. Check us out with our ambitions and career plans.

I read biographies and watch documentaries, for fun.

I dont have to rely on anyone for transport. I can drive, I can pay my own train tickets, I can pretty much just get and go wherever I feel like!

#Winning

Lifestyle

Life Lately as a Millennial

2015 Where have you gone! On the one hand, time seems to be flying by quicker than ever the weeks slip into each other in an repetitive daily regime of work, eat and sleep. But on the other hand, life is taking its sweet time to get to where I want it to be. All I can do right now is wait. Wait until I have completed my Masters, wait until I have work experience, wait until I can find a job and afford to move out. All this waiting is obviously extremely frustrating, and it is uncomfortably easy to let myself fall into a fed-up, unmotivated, uninspired state of mind. I have even been finding it hard to blog as I am struggling to get those creative juices flowing, although I think this is an inevitable side effect of the mental and physical exhaustion of working long hours in a retail job. It doesnt help also that its the time of year where you wish you could just hibernate until the light comes back!!

I like to think however that after a year and a half of practise, I have become accustomed to dealing with my current stagnant situation. My previous encounters with depression have shown me the immense power of positive thinking; by now it is second nature to constantly tell myself that this is just a stage, it is certainly not forever. I have no doubt that I will create the life I want, which makes waiting for it a bit more bearable! I also take a lot of comfort in the fact that I am not the only one in this situation we are part of an entire generation of university educated individuals unable to land on the housing ladder and left with the uneasy feeling of waiting for life to start. Sound familiar?!

As for the other aspects of my pretty stagnant daily life, heres how I (try to) keep positive and motivated:

Working all day from home

I make a conscious effort not to become isolated. Set aside a little time to go outside, see a friend for a cuppa, or chat to your mum.

Exercise. Simply by not commuting anywhere for work you are already less active. Fit in a walk or a yoga session to fire up your brain.

Designate an area as your working space. This also makes it easier to disengage when it comes to relaxing!

Working in a job you arent passionate about

Make it work for you. Taking on more responsibility in my retail job means I am getting the most of it that I possibly can.

Dont take it too seriously. Im not telling you to be unprofessional in any way, but its important not to let the weight of your dissatisfaction at work get you down or affect other areas of your life. Try to remember where it is you hope to end up.

Living at home

Tidy up after yourself and take your fair share of household chores. This is just courteous and shows your parents that you are an adult on equal footing and ready to be treated as one.

The more you talk to your parents about your plans and let them know where you are, the less worried they will be about what time you get in and where you have been. Ive always found that respecting my parents right to be concerned about me makes life a lot easier.

Yes, its a tricky time for us Generation Y graduates, but stick with it, because that positive energy will take you far!

Food

Homemade

Before I went to university, I could not cook. The whole thing just daunted me, and in my first year I lived off pasta and things I could shove in the oven. It wasnt until my second year that I properly learnt how to create meals from scratch, and with practise I slowly picked up the basic techniques, which ingredients complemented each other, which things were the cheapest to buy, as well as expanding my taste palette.

Now I have made a habit of always cooking from scratch and I love it. Granted, I dont always feel like spending ages preparing dinner when I just want to eat straight away, but when cooking for yourself it is easy to bulk up portions and freeze for those particular occasions. I also think that cooking from scratch is the key to eating healthily. I dont bother with calorie counting or severely avoiding a particular food group, as long as 80% of what I eat is homemade, and I know exactly what has gone into it.

Here are some of the things which I will regularly spend time cooking! All of these are foods which I would previously have bought already made in the supermarket.

Beanburgers

A veggie classic! These ones are made with chickpeas, but there are tonnes of different variations you could try.

Meatballs

I used to always buy pre-made meatballs from the supermarket, but homemade ones are a million times better for you. It is worth trying a few different ingredient combos to find one you like. These were pork and apple, but I also like using turkey mince.

Breakfast Bars

Again, something which is all too easy to pick up pre-made in the supermarket, but are often filled with less-than nutritious ingredients. Im always making portable breakfasts but this is one of my favourite almond butter blended with dates, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and oats.

Fishcakes

I love making fishcakes with salmon and sweet potato. They take a bit of effort but they are definitely worth the wait, and they freeze really well, meaning youve always got a spare meal!

Pesto

I dont have a photo of my homemade pesto unfortunately (its not the prettiest thing to photograph anyway!), but it is maybe my favourite on this list. SO quick and easy you can literally have it ready in under 5 minutes provided you have a blender and so versatile; you can dollop it on anything. Homemade pesto is definitely a staple!

Art & Culture

150 Years of Alice In Wonderland

150 years ago, what started as a fairy-tale dreamt up by a Victorian clergyman to amuse a young girl became a classic of childrens literature. Written by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Ludwidge Dodgson), Alice in Wonderland has endured through the centuries to remain one of the best known and loved stories for both adults and children.

A new small but perfectly formed exhibition at the British Library explores the 150-year old legacy left by Carrolls creation. Visitors are guided into the exhibition by a series of blown-up illustrations and text sending you this way and that in a bizarre reimagining of Alices dreamlike descent into Wonderland.

The rest of the exhibition delves deeper into the world of the story. Display cases show a curious array of Alice material, from the original manuscript and Victorian memorabilia to psychedelic sixties posters and 21st century computer games. There are even a couple of clips from two Alice-inspired films.

The success of this compact exhibition lies in its ability to showcase a different side to such an acclaimed classic, and to demonstrate the resonance it has held for generation after generation, whilst still remaining true to the original sentiment. Mined for inspiration through successive eras, Alice in Wonderland has been seen through the eyes of artists and illustrators inspired by various war movements, political causes, technological advancements, commerce and even psychoanalytical theories. Each new set of illustrations brings with it a shift in the mood of the story, yet it never strays far from the original 1865 edition.

Different artistic movements have utilised the story by selecting those elements most suited to their own way of thinking. The counter-culture and psychedelia of the 1960s easily found resonance within the bizarre, mind-bending narrative, while the Surrealists worked with imagery inspired by the idea of dreams and reality.

Alice In Wonderland was able to take on a whole new identity in the later 20th century with the ever-growing development of technology, which enabled a greater engagement with the story across a wider variety of media. Disney took the story and ran with it, toning down the darkness and complexity yet still retaining the original eccentricity which is so charming.

This exhibition makes us aware of the sheer impact of a simple Victorian fairy-tale. Throughout its many reincarnations, it is remarkable that Carrolls original Alice, illustrated by John Tenniel, remains ever-present in the background, still hugely influential and relevant. It is a literary legacy to be proud of.

The exhibition is free to visit, in the entrance hall of the British Library, and is showing until April 2016.